Supporters and students of the MDI Community Sailing Center gather at the Hinckley Dock on Aug. 8 for an annual event to commemorate the center. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MDI COMMUNITY SAILING CENTER

Sailing center raises money for permanent home

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — As the MDI Community Sailing Center celebrates 25 years, it is looking for a place to plant roots permanently. One couple has been instrumental in helping to navigate toward that goal. 

When the sailing center was established in 1996, Cuyler Morris, whose family founded Morris Yachts in 1972, was a member of the original board of directors. A few years later, he helped the center acquire the space it has leased for the last two decades on Clark Point Road.  

At an annual event for the sailing center on Aug. 8, the Morrises announced a $250,000 matching gift donation, in addition to two motorboats, to officially kick off the fundraising campaign for a new permanent home for the sailing center.  

“I guess I’ve always felt getting a permanent home for the [sailing center] was of paramount importance,” Cuyler Morris wrote in an email to the Islander. “When an opportunity arose for us to give back to a community that has given our immediate family, and the Morris family as a whole since 1972, so much, it just seems like the right thing to do.” 

With a goal of $750,000 for the campaign, the center has set a deadline of December 2022 to raise that amount. So far, the center has raised $48,000 toward the $250,000 needed to match the Morris’ donation, according to sailing center founder Glenn Squires. 

“We have a year and a quarter to raise that money and hopefully during that time find a place we can call our permanent home,” said John Roberts, president of the sailing center’s board of directors. “The sailing center has always had its roots in Southwest Harbor. Our preference would be to stay in Southwest Harbor. In a perfect world we would be in Southwest Harbor and preferably on the north side of the harbor.” 

Earlier this summer, Morris and his wife, Cindy, donated two Draco motorboats, one 22 feet long and the other 27 feet long, to the center. The boats had an estimated value of $250,000. As of last week, the 22-foot boat had already sold.  

“This is an amazing gift to our organization and the largest one-time donation we have ever received,” said Squires, who began teaching sailing in Southwest Harbor in the late 1980s. 

In the last 25 years, thousands of students have learned to sail through the MDI Community Sailing Center, according to Squires. He proudly lists off numerous marine-related fields that many of the center’s alumni have gone into, such as marine engineering, captaining boats, sail making and marine architecture. 

“Children are the future of a well-rounded, working maritime community of MDI – it used to be the epicenter of yacht building in Maine,” wrote Cuyler Morris. “It’s also important for kids to be outside, on the water, enjoying Maine and MDI…from the water!” 

On any given day during the summer, there are several different types of sailboats from the center out on the water piloted by sailors with multiple levels of expertise. Many students begin at the sailing center and go on to compete during their high school or college years. 

The center offers adult sailing courses as well. Interested students can sign up for classes or individual lessons.  

“We’re really doing a lot of private lessons this year,” said Squires, noting how the center has adjusted during the pandemic. “It’s such a busy summer. I’ve never seen so many scheduled one-on-one private lessons.” 

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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